Tag Archives: RAF Spadeadam Border Reivers Half Marathon

RAF Spadeadam Half Marathon 100 Year Edition, RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria, Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jonathan Hamill

Apparently, the previous organisers had turned to a local race organiser (Trail Outlaws) for some help to ensure the future viability of this race. I decided at an early stage to support it. It was to form part of the RAF Centenary celebrations on 2018 and let’s face it, you don’t get the chance, every day, to run around a historic base that was part of the UK’s missile project during the cold war.

I was also lured by the description of, “stunning views along its length, winding its way around and through Spadeadam Forest with views over to the Lake District and Sycamore Gap on Hadrians Wall. With numerous RAF practise targets and tanks along the route..”. I figured the RAF wouldn’t be doing much practicing on the day!

I set off to drive the ~1.5hr journey, stopping off at a national chain of coffee purveyors on the outskirts of Hexham for a latte and luxury fruit toast – an army marches on its stomach (oops – wrong service!)

Leaving the A69, I headed toward the base along minor roads and then encountered a tail-back – cars and passengers dealing with the security measures to access the base. Fortunately, this gave me time to stretch my legs, and don my offending compression socks (I’m amazed they let me in!).

Once through the gate and parked up, I collected my number (if only every race organiser insisted on seeing a form of photo ID, we’d avoid Bill running as Ben and so-on). I then decided a warm up was in order and being a bit of a radio geek, and noting the additional hazard at one point of non-ionising radiation above 2 metres, I decided to keep my head down!

There was a bit of delay to proceedings with many a pre-race photo opportunity but before long we were lining up. Now having run an Ultramarathon a fortnight ago, and with another a week away, I decided my plan was to throttle back a little and enjoy the sights. Then we were off, up the hill past the parked cars, and up, up, up – in fact the first few miles were definitely ascent territory. Once off the tarmac, we were on lumpy gravel paths for the majority of the remainder, which were ok on the uphill (plenty of that) and on the downhill corners, enough scree to catch you out.

I remember being pleased with myself and thinking that 53 minutes for the first 10km was half sensible and then there was another series of leg-pulling uphills.

The wind was truly formidable – trees were uprooted and it was hard to run straight at times – I remember thinking that the wind would excite a RAF pilot. The highest point was around 13km and I heard one runner say something about it all being downhill from that point. Now I’ve been to a fair few of these events, and whereas there were some fast downhill stretches there were many uphill sections, including one hill near the end which caught a few folk out.

I was hitting a ~1:55 half marathon by distance, again half sensible but from my earlier warm-up, I knew I was about a mile from the finish – a typical trail race then in terms of value for distance. I decided to drop a gear on the last mile and 7 min/mile pace to the finish, feeling the value of my Hoka Speedgoat 2 cushioning.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, managed to stop for a few obligatory selfies, and actually managed to appear in the race photos looking remarkably presentable for once. In summary, not an easy route, but a great experience, with amazing views and I’d do it again in a flash.
Congratulations to Robert Allfree who was 1st Strider home and all the other Striders!

Many thanks to RAF Spadeadam for their hospitality, Hippie Nixon Photography for the photographic memories and Trail Outlaws for a great event, and a rather cool medal!

Name TimePositionGen. pos. Cat.Cat. Pos
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Border Reivers Half Marathon, RAF Spadeadam, Gilsland, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joe O'Neill

It’s amazing what you allow yourself to get roped into when you’re at a low ebb…for example after you’ve just completed your first Spadeadam Border Reivers Half Marathon, have managed to stagger back to Alister’s car for the journey home and have just made yourself comfortable in the front passenger seat…

So there I was and Paul said “Alister tells me that’s your first official run in club colours? Do you want the bad news? There’s a tradition (a likely story!) that if you’re making your debut then you’re expected to write the report of the event for the club website.” Unfortunately I couldn’t back down….Alister had seen me take a pristine Striders’ running vest out of its cellophane packet just before the run so I couldn’t argue…..I’m still not sure about the “tradition” though….

We’d left Durham in pouring rain, driven through a deluge and finally arrived at this remote RAF station on the moors with (certainly on my part) some misgivings about the likely conditions we would face when the race started….but then I’m just a novice at this sort of thing and I was assured by my fellow Striders that all would be well.

The route covers a mixture of tarmac, forest tracks and rocky roads…..pretty muddy today as well, just to keep it interesting.

As it happened, the weather was relatively kind to us; the rain stayed away and the gale only actually howled as we reached the upper part of the course…the rest of the time it was only a gentle in-your-face headwind. Unfortunately (despite being described as “undulating”) most of the course seemed to me to be “upper” so I struggled even more than usual.

Not long after the start I thought everyone had gone home and left me as I didn’t see many other runners till I finally made it back to HQ; obviously no-one else can quite match my ponderous pace.

This may sound as if I had a bad day; on the contrary I can honestly say (now that it’s a few hours later) that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There’s obviously a special kind of camaraderie amongst madmen/madwomen who could surely find something better to do on a Wednesday in late October. There was a really good turnout from the Striders and it looked as if, apart from the RAF runners, Elvet Striders was the best-represented club there. In terms of performance all the Striders did their club proud (okay, I was a bit slower than most of the others but I did my best….actually only 5 minutes slower than my previous attempts on a much flatter course so I was fairly happy).

The facilities were really good. There was a very pleasant post-run reception in the mess with hot food and cheap beer and a generous thank you speech from the station commander…..they breed very young Wing Commanders these days!

I’d like to say thanks to all the Striders who looked after me today; it was the first “small” marathon I’d done….unlike the GNR and Redcar there was nowhere to hide! I’ll certainly do it again though…it was quite an adventure.

I’d also like to record my thanks to Jacquie, Denise and Steph following the saga of my running vest order….they’ll know what I mean!

Now to attempt walking upstairs…….

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RAF Spadeadam Border Reivers Half-marathon, nr Gilsland, Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Karen Chalkley

Seven Striders ventured over to RAF Spadeadam for their half marathon in 2 cars on Wednesday, George, Emma, Barrie(who wasn’t running but came to support) and me in one and Alister, Phil and Kevin in the other. We left behind the miserable weather in Durham and arrived at a brighter Spadeadam. Due to high security we had to take our passports to get into the grounds and show these at the gates. George, Emma and I showed ours, had our names ticked off the list and were given our passes, Barry was whisked off to the office as he would be staying at the base and had to have his photo added to his pass. We drove off to park the car feeling slightly guilty that we had left Barry behind, but George assured us Barry would be ok and knew the way to go! Which he did.

Lose hope all ye who enter here ... We met up with the other car load of striders in the gymnasium and also Steve Maxwell from Blackhill Bounders. There didn’t seem to be as many other entrants as last year collecting their numbers but the atmosphere was good and I was looking forward to the run. Last years’ results were up for us to check at last! I now knew what I had to aim for though thought I stood no chance of beating my time as I’d been much fitter this time last year.

The route is rather undulating to say the least, and yet here I was again and I don’t like hills! But off we went, uphill at the start followed by more uphill all along. Of course there were downhill bits too but the first half was definitely harder than the second. Having since looked at Alister’s Garmin results no wonder I felt tired by mile 6 but then found it easier after mile 8! (The route is uphill till mile 8 then downhill!) Although the route was the same as last year the scenery had changed as lots of forest had been felled opening up the views making it feel like a different run altogether. I had George and Phil in my sights for the first 5 miles until they disappeared altogether. The miles seemed to pass quickly even if I had to resort to walking a bit up some of the steeper bits!

I thoroughly enjoyed the downhill run to the finish where it was lovely being cheered on by fellow Striders and others too. I had even beaten last years’ time by 3 minutes. Everyone was pleased with their results and so were in a good mood to enjoy the lovely food kindly supplied free. Cheap drinks from the bar too made the day even better. The Striders were the last to leave and make their way home. Is this the norm where food and drink are concerned?! I must socialise more often I think!

A thoroughly enjoyable run with good company, worth taking the day off work for, and one I will definitely do again next year, even with the hills!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Athersmith L Leeming M 1.16:52
16 Robson A MV 1.40:49
29 Williams K M 1.52:45
32 Black S F 1 1.55:55
36 Owen P MV 1.58:15
38 Nicholson G MV 1.58:33
44 Chalkley K FV 2.06:46
48 Detchon E F 2.15:56

61 finishers.

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Border Reivers Half Marathon, RAF Spadeadam, Wednesday, October 26, 2011

David Catterick

Unusually for day races this is always held on a Wednesday, more surprising was the number of runners who could get the day off! Heading off from Durham at 8.00am with Alister driving and Phil clutching coffee we made steady progress towards the A69. Shortly after passing an upsidedown crane part blocking the road (we couldn’t work out how that could have happened) the Brass Monkey emails started arriving with the news that entries had opened at 8.00am, 2 hours early. After 15 minutes getting through security and showing passports we were in, the sun was out and internet access was missing so no Brass Monkey entries for us. George, Paul, Barrie and Karen arrived shortly after us.

For some, a gruelling experience ... We made our way to a heated gym (with hot showers) to get ready and be briefed. This included telling us that there would be some explosions taking place that day but not to worry! Photos were to be restricted to the start and finish. The route would be tarmac at the start and end with the remaining 10 miles on forest/moor track. There were around 100 runners including RAF personnel. RAF Bases in the UK were invited to submit teams with a top prize of £750 for their base’s welfare fund.

At 11.00am the starter pointed his very realistic looking gun skywards and we were off. The route was, at first, uphill with ok gradients. That was fine I thought – at least there would be some downhill. At around 2 miles we turned off the tarmac and headed into woods for some ‘up and down’ then more ‘up and down’ across the moors. On turning bends you’d be faced with such things as an old tank or missile launcher. Alister was even able to identify an old Blue Steak missile launch site. Despite the warning the explosion still came as a surprise followed by an ominous cloud nearby. Not mushroom shaped so that was ok (I think).

By the last mile it was really warm, sunny and downhill all the way to the finish where Paul was waiting who had come in 6th – well done. Before you knew it we were all at the finish hot and sweaty. Did I mention the hot showers. Then it was off to the mess for free food ( no chips this year George mentioned disappointedly ) and then the Junior Ranks Bar for refreshments, a brief presentation by the RAF charity RAFA and Prize giving by the stations C.O.

'You will line up here.' What a great way to spend a Wednesday: fantastic scenery, very relaxed atmosphere, well-organised event, good company, a bit of military history, even lovely weather and all for a good cause. All this for only £12 – This included a technical T- shirt, medal and food. I’m sure that through word of mouth numbers will just grow. 10/10.

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Border Reivers Half Marathon, RAF Spadeadam, Haltwistle, Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dougie Nisbet

On a bright autumnal midweek day two cars and six Strider passports headed for RAF Spadeadam for one of the more unusual half-marathons on the racing calendar. George Paul and Barrie were in the lead vehicle and they were through passport control and into the changing rooms in plenty of time. Alister me and Phil were not far behind but instead of heading straight for registration we decided to take the scenic route and have an extended drive around the base. After 15 minutes driving and countless “It MUST be around the next corner” we sheepishly realised we would have to ‘fess up and go back to the nice young lass on the gate and admit that none of us had paid much attention to what she said when she’d explained where the registration and parking was.

Luckily just before we got back to the gate the gym jumped out at us and soon we were parked and ready to rock. With still an hour or two to go George was already well into his warm-up and jogged along with us to registration before disappearing to continue limbering up. It didn’t seem long before we were at T-minus 20 and it was time for the race briefing. Normally I switch off for this sort of thing but decided it might be prudent to listen up for this one. I recall the words ‘missile’, ‘phonebox’ and ‘tank’ were all in there somewhere but my overwhelming impression was that it would probably not be a good idea to go off course.

Blue Streak and the StridersOn the start line I noticed I was one of the few not wearing a base layer and I shared a manly chat with Paul and Phil about nipples and sporting fabrics and the effect of the cold wind. The Station Commander started us off with a nicely pitched pep-talk and up and away we ran towards the forest. It should have been virgin territory for Alister, Phil and me but having spent 20 minutes driving around looking for the car park we soon discovered that we were already quite familiar with the first few miles. It was a long drag uphill and Phil was first to feel the pace and dropped back down the field. Barrie did what Barrie does, which is to start at the back then amble by whistling a happy tune. By the end of the first few miles of climbing the field had rapidly spread out. Paul and Alister were way out ahead, with me, George and Barrie within a few hundred yards of each other. Around the half-way mark I got past George but Barrie was still an elusive 40 seconds or so ahead. He looked catchable all the way to the finish at which point I realised he wasn’t. The very fast downhill run into the finish on tarmac was quite a buzz although I felt an injury wasn’t far off if I wasn’t careful with that final fast few miles of pounding tarmac.

Paul and Alister had been home for a while, with Barrie then me and George fairly close together. Phil finished a few minutes later after rallying a bit on the second half of the race on his long-road back from injury. He says he’s super-unfit and got a long way to go but I suspect a return to our back-of-the-pack battles are not as far off as he might think.

It was great having a hot shower afterwards and I noticed that my Raynaud’s Syndrome was on particularly fine form with all five fingers in a delightful two-tone; white at the tips, a lovely rosy-red at the base. I popped my hand around the edge of the shower cubicle and said, “Here Phil, this is what I have to put up with!” When there was no reply I popped my head around the shower cubicle to discover Phil had transmogrified into a complete stranger who was looking at me with an understandably bewildered expression.

The day was rounded off with tons of nosh, unbelievably cheap beer and some really, really comfy chairs. Great company and a great day out. A candidate for next year’s Grand Prix perhaps?


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 A Fisher M 1:22:01
8 Paul Evans M 1.30.43
38 Alister Robson M 1.49.31
41 Barrie Evans M 1.52.39
44 Dougie Nisbet M 1.53.17
47 George Nicholson M 1.55.33
63 Phil Owen M 2.04.24

69 finishers, apart from the 18 women who also ran, but who the RAF in their wisdom list as if in a separate race.

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Border Reivers Half Marathon, RAF Spadeadam, Haltwistle, Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shaun Roberts

A race on a Thursday, during the day, was never going to be on for many Striders, but Barrie Evans and I made the trip along the A69 to RAF Spadeadam, and Paul Evans was there to meet us, fresh off a plane from Afghanistan – well, almost! I was keen to try this one after doing the Paras 10 last year, and experiencing the wierd atmosphere of running past patrols of squaddies, burnt-out tanks, and then getting out into what at times was actually unspoilt countryside. This course was very similar: some tarmac, then hard wide forest tracks – i.e. tracks you could get a lorry down, rather than just a sheep – with pieces of military hardware parked up by the side: rocket launchers, personnel carriers, all sorts of stuff. Paul said these were for the planes to use for sighting, and probably had working electronics inside for them to lock onto.

Bit of a long uphill drag to start with, but then the route rose and fell in long undulations – nothing too steep, either up or downhill – but nothing much flat either. Pretty firm, hard even, underfoot – a bit stony in parts, not very muddy at all, even after a night of rain. The course had been described as including “superb views over the fells”, but to be honest with you, there wasn’t much of this – endless views of coniferous forest, more like. Also an eagle, though.

Paul thought he’d be a bit tired after all the travel, and had a bit of cramp towards the end, but did a very solid 1:29 or so, which seemed pretty good to me after being confined to an army base in Afghanistan with only a one-kilometre perimeter fence to run round. I was well-chuffed to get round a course like this in a shade under 1:35, especially after busting a gut at the Saltergate on Sunday. And Barrie finished in 1:51 or so, which was a great run for him and his knees on a surface like this, and faster than his recent GNR time!

Into the Mess after a very welcome shower – nice to have a pint after a run without the legs still being covered in a crust of drying mud – before a very civilised dining-room lunch of Jumbo Sausage Roll, chips and Mediterranean pasta. Then fit young squaddies scooped all the prizes – doh! All this for an entry fee of £10, which included a T-shirt and medal as well, would you believe. Brendan Foster should get along …


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 SAC Williams RAF Leuchars M 1:23:28
6 Paul Evans M 1:27:51
16 Shaun Roberts MV50 1:34:51
54 Barrie Evans MV60 1:51:02

85 finishers.

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